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(60.37, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Envoutement (Bewitchment) 9:16 2. Bolide Debile (Dare Devil) 8.44 3. La Roche (Meeting Point) 9.17 4. Ecart-Type (Standard Deviation) 6.39 5. A Determiner (To Be Determined) 10.29 6. Avanti (Onward) 8.18 7. Reveille-Matin (Shadow of the Alarm Clock) 7.54 LINEUP: Bernard Falaise – guitars, fretless bass, mandolin, banjo; keyboards Pascal Globensky – keyboards, synthesizers, piano Nicolas Masino – bass; keyboards, piano Remi Leclerc – drums, percussion With: Pierre Labbe – tenor & baritone saxophones Marie-Chantal Leclair – soprano saxophone Maxime St-Pierre – trumpet
Prolusion. MIRIODOR are a Canadian, Montreal-based, quartet that have been active since 1980, when they were formed in Quebec City by keyboardist Pascal Globensky and Fran?ois Emond (who has long since left the band). Their debut album, “Rencontres”, was released in 1985, followed by another six studio albums. The release of “Avanti!” was celebrated by Miriodor’s participation in the last edition of FMPM (Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal) in September 2009, where they headlined on the final day of the event.
Analysis. In my native Italian language, “Avanti!” means ‘onward’, and Miriodor’s latest album is indeed a forward-thinking effort – though not to the point of alienating the more conservative followers of progressive rock. In spite of having been around for 30 years, the French Canadian band’s releases have been few and far between, each greeted enthusiastically by the rather restricted community of RIO / Avant-prog devotees, but mostly flying under the radar of the broader prog community. In the past few years, however, helped by appearances at such high-profile festivals as NEARfest and FMPM, Miriodor have gained momentum, and their name has nowadays become one of the hottest tickets on the prog scene. A wholly instrumental album with a running time of almost exactly one hour, “Avanti!” simply oozes class, confidence and creativity. The four core members of the band are augmented by three guests on trumpet and saxophones, who add an orchestral richness to the already lush, intricate fabric of the compositions, further enhanced by judicious touches of cutting-edge technology like the use of a sampler and a turntable. While the end result may bring to mind the likes of Univers Zero, the music displayed on “Avanti!” is not as dark and menacing as anything produced by the seminal Belgian outfit – a basic difference in attitude reflected by the light colours and streamlined design chosen for the cover art. This is not to say that Miriodor’s music is all sweetness and light. There are moments of concentrated intensity in which the band’s inspiration turns to darker, heavier territory, though without ever reaching the disquietingly Gothic heights scaled by Belgian chamber rock bands. Miriodor are not interested in scaring the living daylights out of their listeners – their intent is rather that of producing music that is ultimately enjoyable. It is not, however, the kind of enjoyment derived from passively listening to something cheerful and weightless. The seven compositions featured on the album, ranging from 6 to 10 minutes, pack a lot of content in their relatively limited running time, offering everything from blaring horns to beautifully flowing guitar solos, by way of assertive keyboard runs and intriguing sound effects. This state of affairs makes it extremely difficult to describe any of the tracks with some measure of accuracy. From a compositional point of view, even when confronted with apparently free-form passages, it is quite clear that the band keep a tight rein on the structure, and that the multiple twists and turns that grace the tracks are not the product of a whim, but rather of a carefully controlled plan. In spite of the ‘bad’ (and in many cases undeserved) reputation of RIO/Avant as regards the use of melody, there is quite a lot on “Avanti!” to appeal to those who prize melodic content, though not always in a conventional manner. Album opener Envoutement introduces the listener to the magic world of Miriodor with a blend of exquisite sophistication and harsher, more direct touches – an approach that may bring to mind the more experimental Canterbury bands, such as Soft Machine or Egg. The more angular side of the band’s sound comes into its own in Bolide Debile, in which all the instruments strive to conjure the idea of reckless speed suggested by the title (translated in English as ‘daredevil’), in a contrast of darkness and light that evokes shades of King Crimson and Anekdoten. In La Roche, a multilayered composition full of shifting moods, the band seems to merge the two ‘souls’ of the original RIO movement – the insouciant humour of Samla Mammas Manna and the mesmerizingly martial gloom of Univers Zero. Ecart-Type, the shortest piece on the album, is also the most distinctly experimental, with some positively strident passages and liberal use of sampled recordings. The 10-minute-plus A Determiner sees chaotic, free-form passages alternating with very structured sections, where the instruments seem to act in almost perfect harmony; while the title-track introduces vibrant touches of hard rock in its part-spacey, part-dissonant fabric. Finally, Reveille-Matin wraps up the album in largely spiky, intense fashion, though not as cohesively as the previous items, climaxing with a lengthy guitar solo propelled by powerful drumming. As clearly illustrated by this brief description, “Avanti!” is not exactly an easy listening album. It is, however, one of those discs that will reward the listener’s patience many times over – and this, indeed, is what real progressive rock should be all about.
Conclusion. One of the standout releases of 2009, “Avanti!” is a massive achievement for a band already renowned for the high quality of its output. This is an album that will satisfy even the most demanding of progressive rock fans – unless they cannot stand completely instrumental albums, or need something resembling the catchy hooks of more mainstream music. Sophisticated and flawlessly executed without being an empty exercise in flash, it sets an example that many modern bands could do worse than follow. Top-10-2009
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